Downtown Radio: 20 Years On

Downtown Radio: 20 Years On

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Transmission 17/03/1996


25min 12sec







Digitised as part of the UTV Archive Partnership Project (ITV, Northern Ireland Screen and PRONI)


Department for Communities, ITV, Kelly Vision Productions, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

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ITV, Kelly Vision Productions

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Celebrating 20 years of Downtown Radio, this programme tracks the station from its inception to its current success, with interviews from notable figures in its history.

Don Anderson [Programme Controller 1976-78] speaks about the early days and how, when they first went on the air, the building was more like a building site and so the "main garb you wore was wellingtons". He also recalls that, despite people thinking otherwise, the first words ever spoken on the station were at 2am, when a microphone was accidentally switched on!

Popular character Candy Devine remembers feeling intimidated when she first joined, but soon found out she just needed to be "Can". Trevor Campbell ['Big T'] tells us of the anticipation and, also, frustration of the week delay at the beginning. 

A big question for the station was what tone it was going for, whether it be "standardised BBC" or "how people actually speak". However, what Eamonn Mallie [Political Correspondent] points out, is that Downtown achieved success due to the public responding to the range of voices.

Also found in the footage is the first commercial on Downtown Radio for 'Cookstown Sausages', which was read by Derek Marsden and Cherrie McIlwaine and the formal opening of the station which was voiced by David Hannon. 


The station, began broadcasting on 16 March 1976 - the same day as Prime Minister Harold Wilson resigned. The station had a mini-scoop, breaking the news over an hour before BBC Radio Ulster.

Initially, Downtown was only contracted to broadcast to the Greater Belfast area,. However, following the collapse of plans for a station in the Derry region (Northside Sound) in 1983, Downtown applied to the former Independent Broadcasting Authority to extend its coverage. 

In December 2012 Downtown opened a small studio in Derry ahead of the UK City of Culture Year situated in the Food Quarter within Foyleside Shopping Centre. It remains open in use, mainly at the weekend with presenter-led programming on Saturday afternoon and Sunday covering a range of events in the region. 

It is notable for being one of the few Independent Local Radio stations to still cater for minority tastes such as gospel and jazz. 

Shot List

In order of appearance;

Don Anderson (programme Controller 1976-1978), Trevor Campbell (Big T), Michael Henderson (‘Hendi’), Brian McSharry, Candy Devine, Hannon, John Rosborough (Head of programmeming), Michael Beattie (Head of Factual programmes – UTV), David Sloan (Managing Director), Wendy Austin (BBC Northern Ireland), Gary Gillespie (News Editor – UTV), Ivan Little (Senior Reporter – UTV), Kieran Boyle (Sales Director), Derek Marsden, Eamonn Mallie (Political Correspondent), Kate Smith (Presenter – UTV), Lynda Jayne, Pamela Ballantine (Presenter – UTV), John O’Hara (the Downtown Downbeat Guy), Jackie Flavelle, Ivan Martin, Richard Young, Bobbie Hanvey (the Ramblin Man), Agnes McCluskey, Bob Huggins (Downtown News Reporter), and Harry Castles (News & Sports Editor). 


A Kelly Vision Production for UTV.



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